The Velociraptor scenes in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films were always the tensest and most exciting, becoming iconic – teeth filled – moments every time. So when British developer Coatsink Software announced Jurassic World Aftermath it was no surprise that these dinosaurs would take a central role in this eagerly anticipated virtual reality (VR) experience. But unlike the movies, this isn’t wall-to-wall action, serving up a suspenseful videogame perfectly tailored to VR.
If you’re a fan of the dino franchise then you’ll be pleased to know it fits in the timeline two years after the events of Jurassic World, sending you back to Isla Nublar to retrieve some highly valuable research materials. Nothing goes to plan, of course, crash landing on the island with the main goal now being to find a way out. Cue, investigating the facilities with one of the research scientists helping along the way and lots and lots of hiding.
Jurassic World Aftermath is all about atmosphere and looks gorgeous whilst doing it on the Oculus Quest 2. Going for a cartoon, cel-shaded art style might not seem like the ideal look for creating a suspenseful experience yet Coatsink has certainly made it work, in part thanks to the excellent audio. Known for bringing in talent such as Sir Patrick Stewart for Shadow Point, this time around the voice acting is still on point but it’s the spatial effects which carry the title. Whilst this isn’t a horror game in any way, it still utilises that classic idea of what you can’t see is far more terrifying than what you can, and hearing raptors walking through the hallways will keep you on edge.
Because most of the time you’ll be hiding under a desk or inside a locker, peering through the slits to see a dinosaur wander by. They detect almost entirely by sound, which means running or slamming a door shut will gain their attention and almost definitely cause you to die. Yet their limitations are very noticeable. Raptors will wander around sniffing yet that has no effect whatsoever in detecting you. Literally huddled under a table two feet away and nothing. Even looking directly at you in a cubby hole doesn’t set them off. Blatant line of sight did work, but if you’re doing that then you’re asking for trouble.
Hiding is one of three gameplay systems utilised in Jurassic World Aftermath. The others are remote interaction and puzzles. Now, normally when reviewing a VR title one thing VRFocus looks for is how interactive the environment is. When it comes to Jurassic World Aftermath there’s nothing to play with outside of the designated items. In a videogame where you have to hide and distract dinosaurs, you’d have thought picking up a cup and lobbing it would work, alas that’s not the case. Instead, on the back of your hand is a device which can activate TV’s or speakers, attracting the raptors in the process. That’s great but it’s all you’ve got. Strange that a title with such atmosphere aggressively limits that ability to connect with the environment.
Most of the interactive elements are focused around the computer terminal puzzles – apart from the odd elevator button. These are simple affairs, pressing buttons in sequence or turning dials to focus frequencies. These tend to serve as little breaks more than anything else. There were genuinely exhilarating moments trying to quickly get into these before a raptor suddenly steps through an automatic door.
Jurassic World Aftermath isn’t purely about Velociraptors, a friendly Brontosaurus appears early on and another nasty critter appears to mix up the gameplay, moving it away from hiding in cupboards for a much-needed change. Yet during the 4-5 hours of gameplay, there’s a noticeable lack of any ancillary items. From what VRFocus could find there’s nothing to encourage you back, apart from the fact story concludes next year which is really annoying.
On the subject of comfort in Jurassic World Aftermath, you’re very well catered for. All the usual options are there, play seated or standing, smooth turning or snap, vignettes and more. There’s everything you could want to help you sneak around the facility, plus you can swap between left and right-hand control. As most of the time you’ll be taking it slow and steady most players should find the gameplay easily approachable, unlike the raptors.
Coatsink is well versed in VR and knows what works and what doesn’t, and that’s plain to see in Jurassic World Aftermath. The title expertly builds the tension and those occasional moments stepping back into the ops room are genuinely relieving. Yet the scope for being inventive during the sequences is limited because of the lack of interactive elements. It’s also a shame that you only get half the story, having to wait until 2021 to see what happens. That’s fine for a TV show, less so for a VR videogame. Jurassic World Aftermath is good at what it does, it just feels like it has one arm tied behind its back whilst doing so.